Seminoles football has become as predictable and monotonous as
the tomahawk chop. For nine consecutive years coach Bobby
Bowden's teams have won at least 10 games and been ranked no
lower than No. 4 in the final polls--both NCAA Division I-A
records. In fact, Florida State fans are so accustomed to
winning that when the Seminoles were upset by Virginia 33-28
last November, their first ACC loss since joining the league in
1991, all Tallahassee went into a frenzy of hand-wringing. What
was wrong? Was Bowden slipping? "If we lose one game, we
disappoint a lot of people," says junior quarterback Thad Busby.
"That's not right, but we've put ourselves in that situation by
having such great seasons and records."
Well, Seminoles fans, prepare yourselves for another great
season and record. About the only real area of concern for
Bowden is the offensive line, which lost three starters. But
senior Todd Fordham, a 6'5", 300-pound tackle, and senior Chad
Bates, a 6'3", 285-pound guard, should provide stability and
leadership until the newcomers come around.
If the line jells, the Seminoles' offense, which led Division
I-A last season with an average of 574.5 yards per game, will be
its usual overpowering self. The running attack will showcase
senior tailback Warrick Dunn, the 5'9", 185-pound slasher who
averaged 7.5 yards per carry last fall (second in Division I-A)
and became the first Seminoles runner to rush two seasons for at
least 1,000 yards.
At quarterback Busby will be the fourth consecutive Florida
State starter who didn't take over the job until his junior year
(the others were Casey Weldon, Charlie Ward and Danny Kanell).
When the 6'3", 215-pounder filled in for Kanell last season, he
played well, completing 11 of 13 passes against Maryland and
throwing for 156 yards against N.C. State. His primary receivers
will be wideouts Andre Cooper, a senior, and E.G. Green, a
junior. Last year they became the first pair of Seminoles to
surpass 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Cooper also
broke the school record for touchdown catches in a season.
Florida State's offense has been so potent over the years that
the defense sometimes doesn't get the credit it deserves. For
example, last season the Seminoles forced 34 turnovers. The line
will be anchored by junior noseguard Andre Wadsworth, a former
walk-on who led the team with 77 tackles in '95. The defensive
ends are senior Reinard Wilson, who has 22 career sacks, just
four short of the school record, and junior Peter Boulware, who
led the ACC in sacks last fall with 10. The best linebacker is
Daryl Bush, who was the only sophomore semifinalist for the
Butkus Award last year. All four starters from the secondary
return--Byron Capers, Sean Hamlet, Robert Hammond and Samari
Rolle--and there are strong backups at every position.
Another 10-win season looks very possible, but the Seminoles are
shooting even higher. Says Busby, "The only thing we haven't
done since I've been here is have an undefeated season." Now
that might impress people in Tallahassee.
--William F. Reed
AL TIELEMANS With back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Dunn has the cut of a Heisman candidate. [Warrick Dunn]